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U. Iowa President Mason Apologizes To Regents For The Mishandling Of Hillcrest Sexual Assault

This story was written by Amanda McClure, The Daily Iowan

WEST DES MOINES - University of Iowa President Sally Mason apologized for the mishandling of the alleged Hillcrest sexual assault before the state Board of Regents on Thursday morning.

"Failing a student who asks for our help is unacceptable," she said. "The [UI] community expects more from us, the citizens expect more from us, and I expect more from us. I offer my apologies to the woman, her family, the board members, and the citizens of Iowa."

Regent President David Miles commended Mason for her extraordinary efforts in dealing with the very serious matter.

"We must make certain that the kind of reaction tolerated by the student-athlete is taken by no one," she said. "Our main interest is to restore trust in our ability to maintain safety on campus. We are taking swift and decisive action to create clear and forcible policies to students."

To avoid future "fatal policies," Mason said the UI will no longer perform private investigations. The UI will also mandate rape advocates for all victims.

She called for tighter preventive measures in residence halls so students are under stricter rules.

The administration will now work directly with the UI athletics department.

"Promoting safety on our campus is our new goal," Mason said. "I don't want people to lose faith in what we can do."

As a long-term goal, she called for a change to the alcohol culture on campus that often leads to sexual assault.

"The overwhelming majority of sexual-assault cases involve alcohol on some level," she said. "More than ever, this is a goal that needs to start from the ground up."

Mason appointed Monique DiCarlo of the Women's Action and Resource Center to be the central point of contact for victims and the administration.

"This plan is a great first step for the UI's program," said Elizabeth Barnhill, executive director of the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault. "I'm encouraged by the victim-first policy."

The regents unanimously approved her new plans for handling any sexual assaults in the future but demanded that all regent institutions present them an updated list of such procedures by Dec. 11.

All three state universities have received $1 million federal grant from the Department of Justice for improvements on their sexual-assault policies. The schools will also receive visits from national consultants to perform a review of their policies.

Regent Ruth Harkin praised Mason for her fast action and careful planning.

"I'm very supportive of your personal efforts after the investigation came out," she said. "This is a situation that cannot be repeated."

Charles Green, the assistant vice president for the UI police, said there will be heavier police influence in the handling of future assaults.

"This is a big step in the right direction for victim advocacy," he said. "I'm most concerned about reporting adequate details to police officers at the time of the incident to prevent further attacks."

In response to former UI Vice Presdient Phillip Jones' contention that the Stolar report didn't include all of the investigation's details, Mason said those opinions should have been voiced before the report's release.

"The time to speak, say your peace, have opinions heard was during the investigation," she said. "Not in retrospect."

"The safety of our students and the UI community must be our highest priorities. It's a privilege to the UI president, with the support of the board and the community we can move past this."

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